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Mountain West football's best team ever: 2011 Boise State vs. 2013 Utah State

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The tournament rolls on with an intriguing matchup of Mountain West first-timers.

Chuckie Keeton was excellent when he was healthy in 2013.
Chuckie Keeton was excellent when he was healthy in 2013.
USA TODAY Sports

It isn't easy being the new guy... is it?

Both the Boise State Broncos and the Utah State Aggies were late entrants into the Mountain West Conference, pulled to and fro by the forces of conference realignment. Once they arrived, though, neither team wasted time making a lasting impression.

In 2011, both Utah and BYU had already left town for greener pastures. Boise happily stepped in to fill the power vacuum and continued their winning ways with -- yawn -- another 12-win campaign. Utah State did much the same in 2013 after escaping the WAC, coming within one score of a conference title in their first year as an MWC member. If first impressions are everything, who will leave a bigger one in our ongoing tournament?

Tale of the tape

Overall record: 2011 Boise State - 12-1 (6-1 MWC); 2013 Utah State - 9-5 (7-2)

Best wins: 2011 Boise State - vs. Georgia, 35-21; 2013 Utah State - vs. Northern Illinois, 21-14 (Poinsettia Bowl)

Worst loss: 2011 Boise State - vs. TCU, 36-35; 2013 Utah State - vs. BYU, 31-14

Seasons summarized in a sentence: The 2011 Broncos didn't win a conference title in their first MWC season, but they did finish higher in the final rankings than the team that did and won more games, too. The 2013 Aggies also came up just short of a title, but the defense lived up to its billing as a stingy unit and the offense remained steady even after the starting quarterback was lost to injury.

Fun fact: Jake Doughty, who finished second in the FBS in tackles in 2013, had more than twice as many (148) as the leading tackler from the 2011 Broncos (Byron Hout, 69).

Memorable players

Boise State: Kellen Moore has a strong claim to being the best college quarterback of the 21st century, especially after a 2011 season in which he finished third in the FBS in quarterback efficiency, and threw for 3,800 yards and 43 touchdowns. Running back Doug Martin became a first-round NFL draft pick after racking up 1,500 yards from scrimmage. Defensive lineman Shea McClellin was also a first-rounder, and others like defensive back George Iloka and offensive lineman Nate Potter would be bound for the NFL, as well.

Utah State: Chuckie Keeton grew to become a fan favorite for college football fans with dynamic playmaking ability but, when he went down with an injury, freshman backup Darrel Garretson held his own. Defensive backs Brian Suite and Nevin Lawson combined for nine interceptions, while linebackers Doughty, Kyler Fackrell and Zach Vigil anchored a very good front seven.